A group of black elected officials in Prince George's County is studying a proposal that could shift power away from the county executive by restructuring the County Council to allow voters to elect the chairman and four members at large.

The proposal, as explained by such proponents as state Sen. Albert R. Wynn, could also position a black for the first time as a serious candidate for the office of county executive.

And it would allow blacks, who make up nearly 50 percent of the population, to build on political gains made since 1984 when a coalition of black groups, through an intensive voter registration drive, galvanized support around the presidential campaign of Jesse L. Jackson.

Jackson carried Prince George's and left behind a network that two years later help put into office Alex Williams, the county's first black state's attorney. Also, in 1986, Hilda R. Pemberton was elected by her colleagues as the first woman and second black to chair the County Council, and County Executive Parris Glendening promoted several blacks to key positions in his administration.

The move also comes on the heels of a concerted effort by black elected officials and a coalition of business and civic groups to push county officials for improvements to the minority procurement system for the county government, the school board and several large agencies. Last week, the coalition successfully persuaded the county council to delay the reappointment of Robert M. Potter to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission amid charges that the bicounty utility authority discriminates against minority-owned companies.

Commission officials deny that allegation and said they exceeded goals of awarding contracts to minority-owned firms.

Although Potter's nomination is expected to be confirmed Tuesday, coalition members said the protest was a symbolic action to focus attention on complaints that blacks are being left out of the county building boom.

Having a black elected by a countywide vote as chairman of the council would be a further indication of growing black political clout, political observers said.

Wynn is working to have such the council restructuring plan offered as a referendum in November 1988, but black leaders have not yet agreed on the details for the proposal or begun circulating petitions to get it on the ballot.

The proposal "would provide an opportunity for those who control the county to share power with blacks and women," said Alvin Thornton, a county resident and professor of political science at Howard University. "Blacks are going to get their share of any elected position in the county. When you have additional elected positions, you stand a greater chance of getting a black in office."

Proponents of the restructuring plan see a scenario in 1994 in which a black elected council chairman would succeed Glendening, who is widely expected to run for a third term in 1990.

"It creates an opportunity for more black political power without having infighting with incumbents we like," Wynn said.

"We see it as an opportunity to get someone who is sensitive to blacks or a black himself" as council chairman, said Linwood Jones, president of the Black Democratic Council, a Prince George's political organization. "It is a training position to county executive. It's just like {David} Clarke in the District. If {D.C. Mayor} Marion {Barry} steps down, he is going to run."

Critics of the current council structure, in which the chairman is elected each year by council members and there are no at-large seats, said it has created weak and inconsistent leadership in the legislative branch of county government.

"The political clout that the council possesses is being dwindled away," said council member Floyd E. Wilson, who said he would introduce legislation for a charter change by the end of July. "It's, 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.' It all becomes what is going on in my district.

"The result is there is no policy and no goals, so the county executive sets everything. One thing {the structure change} would do right away is to have another person running countywide and who would have as much political clout as Parris."

In 1982, voters approved a change to the county charter from a council with 11 elected members -- six at large and five from districts -- to the current nine-member district system. The citizen-led drive was an attempt to break what was seen by some as the Democratic Party machine's hold over the council and to discourage ticket-making. Blacks also supported the change as a way to increase representation on the council through a district system, said County Council Administrator Samuel K. Wynkoop Jr.

Thornton said the movement to elect the chairman and have at-large seats is a natural outcome of the rapid growth in the county in the last decade.

"As the county becomes more and more like Baltimore or Washington, it requires a much more engaged council, one that has to be on par with the executive branch," Thornton said. "Hilda Pemberton has no power that in any way comes near to what Glendening has. They {council members} are essentially nine independent forces."

The proposed change to the council structure is drawing mixed reviews at best.

Members of the business and development community, who see the county as the last frontier for growth and development in the Washington area, said that with some members elected at large, the council would be better able to deal with controversial growth decisions.

"The consensus I seem to be hearing is we ought to consider more modification of the current system," said Paul B. Rodbell, a land-use lawyer and past president of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce.

"It is the general, prevailing feeling that there ought to be more than one elected official in Prince George's that is responsible to the entire electorate and decisions ought to be made on a larger basis. The decision has to be made as to what is in the best interest of the entire county, not what is in the best interest of each district."

Pemberton said, however, that the current system is working.

"If there is more pressure to serve countywide issues from the electorate, then that is where the elected {officials} will be," Pemberton said.